Rogue Steak

Alberto Contador needs to prove the prohibited clenbuterol in his system came from contaminated meat. At first glance, trying to go backwards to a meal eaten in July sounds futile. But actually, it’s not, tracking down the rogue steak should be straightforward. So here’s a quick piece explaining the food chain in Europe.

I know what you ate last summer

It’s thanks to a “traceability” scheme in place across Europe. All cattle in Europe have passports. As you can see in the image above, the cow has an individual number and also sports two tags, one of each ear. So from the moment a calf is born until the moment the meat is sold in a carnicería, supermarket or even a restaurant, the meat can be traced. Every step, such as the sale in the market or the abbatoir is logged. Indeed, every cut of meat can be recorded thanks to this scheme, as the graphic shows.

The scheme was originally brought in a response to the Foot and Mouth disease outbreak which prompted a widespread and panic and fear in Europe. One way to reassure customers was to ensure any outbreak could be contained by working backwards through the food chain. Indeed the whole point of the scheme is to ensure a steak eaten in July can be tracked back to its seller, the abbatoir, the whole cow and finally the farmer. The traceability system exists for this very purpose.

Where’s the beef, José?

The Hunt for Red Meat
So all Contador has to do is identify where the meat was bought. José Luis López Cerrón (pictured) was the man who apparently brought the steak with him on a visit to the team, stopping via Irun (a small town right on the Spanish border) to purchase the apparently contaminated meat. This narrows down the search right away, it can’t be hard to locate the Basque butcher.

If López Cerrón can identify the shop then it should prove easy to get hold of the paperwork and software logs to find the meat and go back to the farm in question, and then to follow where other cuts of meat from the same cow have gone. If there’s so much as a tin of dog food on a shelf somewhere from the same cow then this can be tested for the clenbuterol too and used as evidence for – or against – Contador’s case.

What puzzles me is that Contador and his entourage have known for sometime about this and yet no one has gone in search for the butcher. All we’ve had is someone saying “I brought the meat” when they’ve probably had a month to get on the trail of the Basque butcher.

All this pre-supposes the traceability laws have been followed but the laws are pretty strict. Should the paperwork prove missing then Contador’s luck will really be out.

6 thoughts on “Rogue Steak”

  1. Interesting TdFLRB – because some cyclists say they didn't eat the meat because they were delayed by the team bus.

    Conflicting accounts are the last thing Contador needs.

  2. Yes, that's the Novotel I think. Rings a bell in my memory for where they were staying.

    Agree that this is now key for Contador. As straight as his story seems, if they trace the meat and it doesn't support his case, then that is the end of it for him.

    The gap between the credible and plausible in this case is widening and as I've blogged, there's still far too many questions unanswered

  3. Hmm, some tweets in Spanish say Lopez Cerron doesn't remember now which butcher he went to, but the ticket is there. Uh huh.

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